As you begin to read this, I want you to stop for a moment and take a look at your kitchen. Now either you just smiled as you have the kitchen of your dreams or you let out a long extended exhale as you ponder the dishes in the sink or how you wish you had more counter space. Now I want you to take an inventory of all your gadgets in your kitchen. Coffee maker? Check. Stove? Check. Microwave? Check. Crock pot, stand mixer? Maybe. Fire extinguisher? Hmmm….
For those of you who got to make the mental check on your kitchen device list, bravo. But now I need you to get up and check the manufacturer’s date of recommended replacement on your fire extinguisher and ensure that it is still good. If you can’t do this in the next ten seconds or less, I also need you to re-evaluate where you locate your extinguisher. And for those of you who don’t have one, it's OK. I need you both to keep reading along!
We’ve all have taken part in fire prevention activities from as early as elementary school. Stop, drop and roll, make an exit plan, have a meeting place and learning about 911 are all staples of fire prevention and safety that are still taught to children today. But what about us grown-ups? There are of course the reminders to check your smoke detectors and replace their batteries with the change of the clocks; candle safety as their popularity has grown in recent years; and all of these are important. The smoke detectors are critical when talking about the safety of you, your family and your fellow tenants for those who live in apartments, condos and townhouses. If I were to ask many of you where do you believe most fires in homes occur and how do they start, I would believe many of you would begin to think of bedrooms, candles, smoking in bed or living rooms and electrical issues. The truth is you would be right, but these actually account for a lower percentage of fire locations and causes as reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which records this data and releases reports on such. So what is the most common cause of fire and where? Well, considering the opening paragraph of this article, you got it—the kitchen. Take a moment to contemplate the following 2011 NFPA statistics:
- Cooking is the leading cause of home structure fires and civilian injuries.
- Kitchen fires are the leading area of origin (42-percent) and account for the most civilian fire injuries (38-percent)
- Home structure fires peak nationally between the hours of 5 and 8 p.m.
So how do we best protect ourselves?
- The first and most important of all actions we can take is to be prepared!
- Your ability to react appropriately and those around you depend on you being able to stay calm! While the chances of you experiencing a fire while cooking overall are still low, knowing that they can happen and what to do if it does can and will significantly improve the overall outcome.
- Remember your basics!
- Resist the urge to put water of a fire involving grease and/or cooking oils!
- If it involves an electric device unplug it prior to applying water!
- For pots and pans, simply putting a tight fitting lid over it will make a huge difference. Do not remove the lid yourself! Wait until the Fire Department has arrived and allow them to check on the situation.
- Small kitchen fire extinguishers are highly effective and are rated to handle multiple types of fires. These can be found at your favorite local hardware or general merchandise store. Take the time to read the box and directions to ensure you have the right size for your needs and proper placement for quick access and use. (Remember!! You will be under stress and want it easily accessible!)
- What many people won’t tell you is that you must be prepared that the extinguishing agent comes out with a decent amount of force and may move the pan on the stove. It also may cause some small areas of burning grease, oil or food to splash outside of the pan. This is normal and generally is very small in volume and easily handled with the extinguisher.
- Regardless of the situation and size of the fire, direct someone to call 911 to report the fire! Or if alone make a quick attempt to extinguish any fire. If the fire does not immediately go out or even if it does…immediately dial 911 for the fire department!
- Delaying fire department response significantly impacts our ability to attempt to contain the fire to the area of origin in the event the fire spreads.
- In cases where there is a decent amount of smoke in your home, we will also use our equipment to help get it out.
As it’s often said in many sports, the best offense is a good defense. Remembering these tips and having the right equipment will put you in position to improve your safety at home. And of course remember our overall safety reminders:
- Install and ensure proper function of smoke detectors in your home! Follow the directions for installment and the recommendations for placement.
- Check the batteries often! Many tout 10-year lithium batteries today but it is still important to check that they are in fact working. If you have a standard battery detector, it is recommended that you change them every six months. Believe us when we say your life may very well depend on it.
- Three out of every five civilian fire deaths occurred in homes with no smoke detectors present or were there and were non-functioning.
- Do not smoke in bed!
- Do not leave candles unattended and put them out prior to leaving any area you are not in!
- Make sure children know what to do if the smoke alarm goes off in your house and/or there is a fire!
- Know to get out! Know where to meet! Know to call 911 from outside your house!
- Dial 911 to report any fire you experience or see! It's better to feel a little embarrassed then to try to replace worldly possessions.
If you have any questions or concerns about installing a smoke detector or fire extinguisher in your residence, don’t hesitate to call our fire headquarters at 914-737-2760. We are here for you and we strive to deliver the best and most professional customer service. Just as the cliché’ goes…your professional firefighting staff are here for you 24/7 to protect and serve all of our residents and visitors to the City of Peekskill.
About the author:
Tom Macpherson has been a career firefighter/paramedic with the City of Peekskill Fire Department for the last 13 years, and is a member of the Peekskill Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 2343. Prior to being hired by the City of Peekskill, he was a VFF/medic. Macpherson is also a Westchester County, New York State, and Nationally Certified Fire Instructor. In addition to his fire service training credentials, he holds a BS in Health Sciences from Mercy College, as well as an A.A.S Paramedic from Westchester Community College.